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One Texas Teacher’s Note To Parents Starts National Debate on Homework

August 24, 2016

Both the NYTimes and NYDaily News featured stories on a second grade teacher in Texas who sent a note home at the beginning of the school year declaring that she would not be assigning homework. The NYTimes article by Christine Hauser reported on it this way:

This month, Brandy Young, a second-grade teacher in Godley, Tex., let parents know on “Meet the Teacher” night that she had no plans to load up her students’ backpacks.

“There will be no formally assigned homework this year,” Ms. Young wrote in a note that was widely shared on Facebook. “Rather, I ask that you spend your evenings doing things that are proven to correlate with student success. Eat dinner as a family, read together, play outside, and get your child to bed early.”

Ms. Hauser noted that this debate is not limited to a lone district in Texas:

Other conversations about homework are humming in town halls and online… (and) discussions on blogs like GreatSchools.org or StopHomework.com reveal a belief that the workload assigned to students may be too heavy…. The National PTA and the National Education Association endorse a 10-minute guideline: Time spent on after-school work should not exceed 10 minutes a grade level a night. “That is, a first grader should have no more than 10 minutes of homework, a sixth grader no more than 60 minutes and a 12th grader no more than two hours,” the National PTA says…

Just yesterday a group of high school classmates and I debated this topic based on our experiences as students in the 1960s, parents in the 1970s and 1980s, and now as grandparents. None of us could recall being assigned any homework in the early grade levels and we all had fond memories of our childhood spending time after school wandering in the woods, playing with friends, and reading or daydreaming. We all lamented the increasing pressure applied to children children to be successful from the very outset of school, pressure that is manifested in things like mandatory homework in second grade. Indeed, I doubt that our group from the Class of 1965 would endorse the National PTA and NEA guidelines for homework: we’d prefer seeing elementary age children completely free from homework and given the opportunity to spend their free time, well, FREE. Each of us had independently come to the conclusion that Scandinavian countries, who start formal schooling later and do not rely on tests or excessive homework, have it right and our regimented system that labels children early and pushes them relentlessly has it wrong.

But as long as the public perceives schools as factories that “assemble” educated children we will continue to pile on work in the misguided belief that more work = more productivity…

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